1804 Poem, James Orr, 'Epistle to N— P—, Oldmill'

Author: James Orr

Date: 1804

Source: Poem: ‘Epistle to N— P—, Oldmill’, from Poems, on Various Subjects, by James Orr (Belfast: Printed by Smyth & Lyons, 1804)

Comments: James Orr (1770-1816), a weaver from Ballycarry in East Antrim, is sometimes regarded as the best Ulster-Scots ‘rhyming weaver’ of his generation. A close friend and associate of Samuel Thomson, he penned over 150 poems in his lifetime and became firmly established as the Bard of the common people. An account of his life and poetry can be found in the ‘Introduction’ to The Country Rhymes of James Orr by Philip Robinson (Belfast, 1992).

Doc. ref. no.: USLS/TB/Poetry/1800-1899/006


The chief musician on the string’d instrument!

Dear Thaunie! musick’s gentle sinn,

A thread o’ rhyme to thee I’ll spin;

Tho’ unexpressive is your blin’

An’ beamless e’e:

Your brightness has the light within

That pleases me.

I’m glad, my frien’, ye mak’ a shift

To keep the strings in proper tift;

Ere this new moon forsake the lift

We’se hae some sport,

Tho’ my auld treadles sud move swift,

At midnight for’t.

’Tis you may brag; man, wife, an’ lassie,

Wad to their bosoms hug an’ hause ye;

Some deep divines, wha poor folk awe sae,

They flee the kirk,

Wad fald a flock might make them saucie,

Gif ye were clerk.

Let us be tir’d, or barley-sick,

Or crav’d for debts, wad cowe auld Nick,

Or pierc’d wi’ love, aye to the quick,

Or scandal foutie,

Ae flourish o’ your fiddle-stick,

Sen’s care to Cloutie.

On auld fair days, when folk’s no’ sicker,

You’re ay the brither o’ the Bicker;

Frae ilka neuk the spunkies staucher

To hear your stories;

The roof re-echoes ev’ry nicher,

An’ every chorus.

An’ when ye gravely try your skill

On ordination an’ free-will,

E’en whiggish drones chap in a gill,

You’re sic a bright man;

For a’ you’re owre like Rabin Hill,

A black New-light-man.

When labour calls, ye doon can lay

Your han’s, an’ waur the sons o’ day;

An’ were a wake three mile away

Ye straught cud gang till’t,

An’ let them hear ye baith cud pray

And pit the twang till’t.

I ’ledge you’re wonderfu’ content ay,

An’ weel ye may, for fate has sent ye

A bairn-time, thrifty, crouse an’ cantie,

Bless’d be the Maker!

They’ve bra’ stout stilches; tho’ they haunt ay

The “fiddler’s acre”.

An’ sic a wife — but phrase I mannie,

In fegs, I wiss ye saw her Thaunie[1]!

My conscience, ye hae graipet cannie,

While seein’ chiels

Wale jads, as gruesome as my grannie,

Thraun reestet deels.

An’ ye hae sense might sair a king,

An’ ye’ve a muse can glibly sing;

Gif I’m to judge, I’ll swear by jing!

There’s few who gaze on

The scenes o’ life, can paint the thing

Like “fine boat-racin.”[2]

An’ tho’ on Nature’s bonie beuk,

Ye canna cast a conscious leuk

Ye’ve peace an’ ease, ’boon monie folk

Wha glour fu’ keen,

An’ wadna be a cleigh’rin crock

For baith his e’en.

Your case is common; heaps, my frien’,

Benight themsel’s, wha might hae seen;

Some’s blin wi’ love; some’s blin wi’ spleen;

An some wi’ pride;

An’ some stap out their reasons e’en

That faith may guide.

I’d rather than my twa new shoen

I’d view mankin’ as ye hae done;

Experience (tho’ that camna soon)

Will surely keep

My insight clear, an’ save my crown

Till my last sleep.

Hale be your han’, to earn a drapie,

By makin’ creatures, blythe an’ happy!

An’ he who peys ye wi’ a rap ay,

’Cause ye maun trust him,

Let him be Orangeman, or crappie,

I’ll say — Deel brust him!

[1] Thaunie is purblind.

[2] Alluding to a song of Thaunie’s on a Boat-race.


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